Tag Archives | round 2

Apply Now or Later? Business School Age Range

“When should I apply?”  “Am I too old to apply to business school?” Those are often the first things students ask when planning their MBA application process.  The highly personal answer depends on both strategic and tactical considerations.

The Decision is Part of Your Career Strategy

 

The “when” question is strategic because an MBA application requires asking yourself big questions about your career and where you want to go next. Often these decisions depend on the experience you already have. If you are looking at full-time programs, that means you have to figure out whether you have enough experience to convince an admissions committee that this is the right time to leave your current job and take on the hard-core leadership and managerial training to set you up for the next phase.  Remember, the admissions committee is trying to determine your value added to your future stakeholders: classmates, faculty, and alumni.

But I Hate My Job!

That’s among the worst reasons to apply to business school. It’s really better to apply from a position of strength. Sometimes you just need one more year to gain more work autonomy, or you might want to switch functions to round out your experience, or even push yourself in a completely different direction. If you are not sure now is the time , then you are probably not ready.

Is there a target number of years? Not exactly. Most schools publish their average age and years of experience on the class profile page.

HBS histogram

HBS range of years of experience

You’ll see that over the past 10 years, Harvard Business School’s students matriculated with a range of 41-54 months of full time experience.  And there’s a standard deviation of a about year  around that, giving you a plenty to work with.

If you are on the young side, think hard about the quality of the challenges and emotional intelligence you’ve demonstrated to influence outcomes. Remember, your teammate may be an astronaut, a West Point-educated Tesla employee,  a prize-winning athlete,   or just a high-performing consultant. Do you bring enough maturity, self-awareness, and resilience   to add to your teammate’s experience? It’s quite a tall order, and that’s why admission to the top schools is so competitive.

You’ll note that I’m not writing too much about someone with many years of experience. In that case, your question is not “when?” but “if?” If you think you are on the “more experienced” side, then don’t wait.  For a good, balanced perspective on the “too old” question, take a look at  Wharton’s (now defunct) Student2Student forum (answers saved at the link).

Round 1, 2, or 3?

The decision about Round 1, 2, or 3, is more of a tactical one. I’m writing this article in the first week of January, so chances are, if you are reading it in early 2017, you probably have already missed Round 2. However, if you are thinking of next year, all things being equal (and they never are) I recommend Round 1. You’d rather have an admissions reader who is fresh and not looking to fill a gap in a class that’s already half-full. Furthermore, as a practical matter, Round 1 lets you enjoy the holiday season more, and your family with thank you for that.

This does not mean that Round 2 is an overly-tough round. Thousands of students apply and are admitted in the second round. Many have skipped on the first round because they haven’t done enough personal reflection to make sure their story and purpose are clear. Others wanted to take the GMAT score again, and for others, life got in the way. All of these are great reasons to postpone to Round 2.

Wrangling Recommenders

Recommendations are often overlooked when considering your tactical timing. I call this wrangling recommenders. You’ll need to brief and rally your recommenders to make sure they do the very best job for you. It is your job as project manager of your application to take this part of the application seriously. You will want them fully on your side, and the whole process WILL cost you some political capital. And no, you cannot write your own recommendations and just have them tweak and sign. That’s wrong.

Am I Crazy to Apply Round 3?

Finally, it’s come to this: the Round 3 question.  I personally know or have worked with students who have gotten into every top school in the country that has a third round. (MIT does not). The odds are against you, but if your tactical timing is right, then it may just work. As Dee Leopold, head of Harvard Business School admissions says,

“We like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again.”

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about taking your GMAT, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, you may not be as crazy as you think.

The choice is always yours. Whenever you decide to apply, make sure you execute well. That probably means you shouldn’t rush. Business school is a big decision and a bigger commitment, so you should apply when you feel you are presenting your best, true self.

This prompt is partly about your ability to plan logically and partly about your ability to envision a wild future.

After Round 2 — And Some Interview Tips Too

This is the in-between season for MBA applicants, characterized by anxiety for everyone, including me. Reason: those who have already met their first-round deadlines have nothing to do but wait, and are suddenly overwhelmed with free time and unused gym memberships. Those who are applying in round 2 realize that they have to go through the crazy deadlines and last-minute rush they saw their friends go through.
But here’s the good news: For round 1 folks, you will know what is going on by Christmas. Either way. In the meantime, you’ve got interviews to go through, which are actually fun. I mean, what better way to talk about yourself for half-hour?  It’s not that hard, even at HBS, where the interview really does make or break the application. So, for those of you who are getting ready to make their case in person, here are three handy tips:

1. Be over-prepared. About your story (why MBA, why you) about your leadership examples, and about why this school. You want to be confident, and with most type-A people (the kind of people applying to business school), the best way to be confident is to practice, practice, practice.

2. Look at the interview as a fraternity/sorority rush experience. The most important thing an interview is going to tell the admissions committee is whether they think classmates will benefit from having you around. Remember, your sectionmate/team member is paying $150,000 for the privilege of learning from you. Your interviewer is looking not only at what value you add, but how likeable you are. Face it, there’s an element of popularity here.

Having said that, you are not the interviewer’s best friend, so don’t get too cozy or flip. This is business.

3. Be prepared to talk about a fun fact.  If you don’t have a fun fact on your resume (glassblowing, member of the national darts team, lived in Suriname for a year), be prepared to talk about something a little unusual. Or at a minimum, be prepared to talk about what you are reading. Interviewers want to know something about you that’s just a little different from the others. Knowing every word from “The Big Lebowski” doesn’t count.

BONUS

4. Know your industry’s headlines. This is a new one, something I picked up from an interview guide published by HBS students. If you are in social media, there’s a good chance that the interviewer may ask you to opine on Twitter’s newest change (as of this writing it’s the ability to be able to direct tweet anyone). If you work for JPMorgan, you should probably be aware of what the media is saying about Jamie Dimon, even if it bears little influence on your division. You just don’t want to get caught off guard if an interview says, “Oh, you work in consumer tech, what do you think of Apple’s new head of retail sales?”

So remember, practice, stay interesting, and enjoy the process.

How to Navigate the Harvard Business School Application — Step-by-Step

Here’s a step-by-step “How to Navigate the Harvard Business School Application” video that was also posted on Poets & Quants. Believe it or not, the application’s short answers give you a really great way to present yourself as a true, and worthy member of the next class.  Take every advantage of this opportunity!

This year, the HBS application takes on a disproportional importance, as it has been made very clear by the head of admissions, Dee Leopold, that the application, plus the optional essay is simply there to determine who is going to go through their face-to-face interview process.

Of course the essay is important, but it is likely that the application that will weigh heavily, especially as they determine who will be interviewed.  Given the application’s importance, you’ll want to read through and think about it well in advance.  Note that they require you to log into the HBS site and click through about 10 times to even read it.  And then if you do, you would have to take about 20 more screenshots to even figure out what’s going on. That’s why I made this video; I went through every page and found the most important areas to differentiate yourself.

Don’t leave this all to the last minute.  But incorporate the application as part of your overall strategy to make the right impression before the admissions committee, by getting clear on what you want to say in the short answers, text boxes, and even in the additional information session.

For those of you who aren’t able to see the video, (or don’t have six minutes to spare), I’ve posted the main takeaways below:

1. Start by reading through the entire online application–without typing anything in those annoying little boxes.

2. Gather all your GMAT and employment data to fill in at the same time.

3. Don’t craft substantive answers in the text boxes. Use your Word program or pen and paper to assure your answers are as good as they can be.

4. Take advantage of these opportunities to tell the truth about yourself.

Have fun with the essay, but the application will probably weigh more up front, at least as admissions officers consider the first cut.

Tuck School Also Debunks MBA Application Myths

tuck blog

As students rush to get their applications in for the second round of MBA admissions, schools are reaching out to students to separate true from false. Part of it is because everyone runs to forums to get their information rather than directly from schools. So when I see an admissions director write up a “Mythbusting” blog post, I feel I need to pass it on. Stanford debunked myths last month, offering useful information about the GSB admissions process.

This time it’s from one of the best schools in the world, the beautiful and close-knit Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Here are the words of the straightforward Director of Admissions, Dawna Clarke (also a very nice person).

The Real Story

Dawna Clarke, addresses some of the most common questions she hears from prospective applicants in this video.

Some of the most common misconceptions about Tuck’s application process are:

Tuck allocates a specific number of admit slots per round: Not true. The number of applicants who are admitted in each round is greatly influenced by the overall quality and size of the application pool each year.

International students are less likely to be admitted after the November round: We’re not really sure how this one got started, but this is also not true. Again, because the overall makeup of the applicant pool varies from year-to-year, how and when applicants are admitted is partly the result of the ongoing application process.

If you haven’t applied by the November round, you should wait to apply early the following year: Again, not true. We admit lots of applicants in the January round and, while the April round is typically the most competitive, a strong application will stand out–regardless of the round it is received in. The important takeaway here is that you should focus on submitting the best application you can and apply when the timing works best for you.

Applicants often think that admissions directors are not as truthful about their process as they can be. I see why it’s confusion, but I suggest paying attention to the words of people like Dawna Clarke — if only to make yourself less anxious!

January 2013 Update

This is embarrassing. I haven’t been on this blog since last November. It’s all for good reasons; I’ve been working one-on-one with my new friends who have applied to some wonderful schools. It’s funny when you have a boutique practice like mine; I get to see all of the top business schools. Of course I get a lot of HBS, after all I went
there and keep up with the school. I also get a fair amount of Stanford GSB applicants — that’s partly because of the work I do down there on writing and resume coaching — and partly because I live in the region. But funny enough, I only got a few Berkeley applications this year, so the regional argument doesn’t seem to hold.

For some strange reason, this year I had a lot of Tuck applicants, and all of the first-round applicants did quite well. In fact, they may all be visiting each other in Hanover next year, for after all, Tuck is very self-selecting. I also had quite a few Duke applications, which made me smile, because the 25 Random Things essay is a lot of fun. If they keep that essay next year, or if you are crazy enough to apply in Round 3, I encourage you to do the Duke application first, because it helps you wrap your brain around some of the things that make you unique.

So it’s been a successful Round 1 — no bad surprises, some great fun surprises, and even some cash money surprises!
For Round 2, let’s see where it goes; right now a few students are finishing up the NYU Stern application, MIT Sloan Fellows is also this week, and Haas’s third round (out of four rounds) is also this week.

I’m tee-ing up some other blog posts to make up for lost time, so stay tuned. Also, if you’ve got a burning question, feel free to email me, or check out my forum on Wall Street Oasis.

Happy New Year, Western and Lunar